In an age where GPS is in your car and on your cell phone, it’s hard to imagine just how important maps used to be. L.A. Unfolded: Great Maps at the Central Library was an amazing exhibition that showed some samples from the library’s huge collection, and now 70 of these are reproduced in Los Angeles in Maps so you can see again – or for the first time – how, in barely over 200 years, the City of Angels grew from a wild, near-desert settlement in the west of America to one of the biggest and most notable – and notorious – cities in the world.

Author/exhibition co-curator Glen Creason writes short but fascinating explanations alongside the maps, which show promotional ones made for the endless land sales and annexations, the mighty Los Angeles River, oil fields, harbors, railways, “golden liquid” (water), tourism highlights and, of course, maps to the Homes of the Stars (the celebs loved them at first – until Charles Manson came along).

The contemporary pictorial maps are the most accessible, but each one in this book offers an insight into the complex route that Los Angeles has taken over the years. It may be a hefty $50, but it offers a fascinating way to learn about the vital zanjas, semi-real places such as Mesmer City and the early pseudo-animal reservation of Barnes City, and the many forgotten streets and places that would have been lost to history if it weren’t for the – often purely commercial – cartographic skills of real estate agents, fire insurance companies, automobile clubs, city engineers and people who loved this city.

Grade: A

Los Angeles in Maps is currently available.